NVDT Totally Random – Type. Hit Return. Repeat As Necessary.

Or – Thanks for the whine, I’ll keep the change.

From time to time I build up a real head of steam over the whole “new fangled shit sucks” commentary. From music to art to the Gutenberg Block editor. The latter I am about to take in hand. Because good luck hanging on to yesterday. As Chad Stuart wrote, ” …that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.”

News Flash. Things change.

News Flash. Nothing is really new.

Want a classic example of block editing? Stonehenge. What do we give kids to build their spacial relations and motor skills? Building blocks.

Gutenberg Technology has a much wider scope and larger foothold in the web presentation community than just WP. GT is showing up everywhere inter-and-intranet content development takes place from the big shot corporate web publishing “partners” to do it yourself and “assisted” publishing sites for “authors”. The concept is everywhere, and isn’t new.

Take the most widely used presentation software for three generations. What is Power Point in its basic form but a block editor with some behind the curtains graphic and audio capabilities? Conceptually GT is the same thing, only slicker. Designed to take the old, simple but obviously still viable concept of chunking and paste-up to web content design. I’m not here to sell GT, but I would urge anyone complaining to research the purpose and impact of the product and its booming acceptance in the corporate world, or get left behind complaining about what is the next wave of content management and development. Look at it this way –

Before Power point…

After Power Point.

Believe it or not I produced presentations the old way. Doing that is a process essay on its own. So I don’t get the Gutenberg whining.

Type, hit return, repeat.

WTF is so hard to “get” about that? Every word, every sentence, every phrase, every paragraph we create is already a block. People who pay attention to their output grab those chunks and drag them around until the product equals the concept. Scrivener and every other dedicated script, screen and novel software are all based on visual feedback and the ability to drag, drop and rearrange content by scene, chapter, paragraph plus the ability to archive and recall those archived resources for reuse.

Well, there’s the learning curve, or I work like this, or… Like the GEICO commercial – 15 minutes could save you a world of time and hassle. Here’s one of those scenarios. My father-in-law (RIP) used an office type program from probably the 70s or early 80s, and all he ever used was the spreadsheet. He did his financial justifications in it, kept records in it, even had a template for mailing labels and writing letters inside of stretched cells -in a freaking spreadsheet! Sometime in the late 90s he got a “new” computer and asked me if I could transfer those templates into the new box. I said, “There’s a program in there for writing letters, with your choice of templates.” Nope. Then I had to break the news to him that he’d skipped a bunch of years of updates that might have brought those files forward but that option was way past its sell by date and he was going to have to adapt. He was one unhappy camper.

Look, our workflows will get interrupted, it’s the way we live. I was an on demand product specialist for a piece of software going back to 1988. It was my software of choice for music. Over time it morphed from Atari to Mac and PC to Mac only. It exists today as the Apple product Logic ProX .

When Apple bought it I didn’t move to a Mac or become my father-in-law. I had a deadline, blocks and tracks are blocks and tracks. I got an artist/industry comp on another product and went back to work. As my fictional hero Jackson says, “Listen, jam, take it where it needs to go. Spool it, print it, call a courier.”

From ’88 on I heard how Logic (Notator) was “too deep”. What?

If you don’t need all of it, don’t use it. Software isn’t judgemental. Type, hit return, repeat. Just like politics and traditional publishing. Same ol’ same ol’.

For all the block editing whiners out there I leave you with some visual blocks to play with.

Next time you want to whine about blocks you can help me do this…

With this

Or do this….

With this.

NVDT #81 – Life’s Too Short To Read Shitty Books

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PromptWhat does it take to impress you when you are reading someone else’s book?

Good Writing – Unfortunately there’s not a… No. Here’s a little parable. Remember back before GPS was everywhere, were you ever in a cab where you had to tell the driver how to get wherever the hell you needed to go? Like they knew two words – airport and Galleria. Lots of people write like that set up. They either have no idea where they’re going or how to get there, or they spend the entire ride giving directions.

What keeps me in a book is if I get something out of the first several pages. And to find those two pages, I’ll pick up things from everywhere. I throw a lot of them back. Fishing that way brought me to Barbara Park and Laura Levine, Edgar Box, John Trench.

Never heard of John Trench? Me, either. But there were four or five quotable lines in the first two pages, plus the answer to an issue I had with a critical scene in a WIP hauled up right off the page and bitch slapped me. So much so I was in a state of euphoric Eureka! for at least half an hour. Also, I find these older books have an acerbic sense of social stereotype satire we’re missing in the modern formula factory output. Or, with the L’Amour, the old adage of don’t start with the weather takes a hike because the opening is an exceptionally well-drawn, compact weather/location scene. If I could put a couple of out of work broke cowboys under a train trestle in shitty weather that well, I’d be rich and famous, too. But – seeing how he does it helps me put an over partied kidnapped grad student in a squat without wasting your day getting there.

These days I read, sometimes inadvertently, to learn something about craft. If I don’t notice it, then I tell myself, go back, figure out why you’re halfway through this book, effortlessly. Laura Levine–I’m forty pages in what would be a less professionally handled tosser farce. I skip the 70s moralizing in MacDonald’s I haven’t read because been there, done that, but I drink deep from his well of three-word descriptions that put whatever it is in my face. The way Robert B. Parker ends a chapter. Quit when you’re there, not just when you’re ahead. The way Hammett and Faulkner crush modern writers of ensemble scenes. In books I’d never heard of. How writers snake through the characters and the setting of a scene. How action needs very little set up (The Switch). Characters that might be cliché but rock it. Characters you wonder do people really do that shit for a living?

There are myriads of good writing templates available to put over our work, and we should, just to see if we’re close. If you’ve never done that, go ahead and nail your other foot to the floor now. For instance, I’m always harping on all the descriptive folderol that should be left up to reader to get them to invest. How can you do that if you don’t know that in 12 novels and numerous short stories we are never told an exact age or given a detailed description of one of cozy’s archetypes for the current plethora of every-woman detectives. If Ms. Marple can do it, why do we need to know about Danger Barbie’s auburn curls and Ancestry.com lineage of CIA assassins, white heels, short blue skirt and designer handbag? Are the readers reading or playing Barbie with an imagination coach?

Entertain me, make me suspend disbelief with well-written work. I’ll give anything a chance because I believe any book just might just be the next I Ching or Runes, or Don Shimoda’s Messiah’s Handbook.

“Open it,” he said, “and whatever you need to know is there.”

Or might be.

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NVDT #80 – Divine Intervention

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Prompt – Did you ever get picked last in gym or some other class? Have you used that in your writing?

I probably did. I was lousy at basketball, but I avoided it. In doing so I must have avoided the embarrassment. But have I used those years and experiences in my writing? This is a cutting room floor casualty from a WIP that will never see the light of day. If this isn’t enough and you’re curious about more true stories -The Blue Bag and the Valentine’s episode – White Lies and Dirty Laundry and Deanna- With Two Ns

Roosevelt Junior High, November 1971

“Jackson. Mis-ter, Jackson, come on. Get up out of there. Jackson! Move it!

Dammit. Jackson scrambled under the row of seats in front of him in the Roosevelt Junior High auditorium trying to pick up his science book, notebook, pencil and the single page mimeograph doodle sheet containing the synopsis of the 16-millimeter science film of the day because the girl on his right had gone ape shit and exploded on him. The girl on his left was about to cry, he could feel it. And the man who started films for science class every day, who was also his gym coach and homeroom teacher, was yelling at him. Gaw-odd-dammit.

“He dropped everything when she hit him, Mr. Stephens.” Janice, the girl on his left, tried to cover for him and not cry because someone was yelling.

“I don’t care, Miss Hurst. Jackson! Get up!” Mr. Stephens was leaning into the aisle, hands on the backs of the seats on either side of the row. “Jackson! Now!”

“He better never, never, never, ever, ever, ever do that again.” Connie, the girl on Jackson’s right, whacked the shit out of his back again. “You butt hole!”

“Miss Howard, that’s enough. Jackson!”

Stephens handled his own discipline, so at least this wouldn’t go to the office or his mom. If his mom found out he’d poked a girl in the boob with a pencil, even the eraser end, even on accident, she’d kill him. How did this shit happen? He sat up.

“Jackson, what the — ”

“He poked me in the…He poked me with his pencil in the…” Connie Howard couldn’t find the word she wanted for boob.

“It’s my fault, Mr. Stephens.” Janice was right on the edge of crying.

“Christ on a crutch, Miss Hurst. How is this your fault?”

“I, I asked him could I borrow a pencil, and then… it happened.”

“Somebody needs to tell me exactly what happened, before I yank the three of you off this row.” Stephens saw the flood coming and put his hand on Janice’s shoulder.

“Mr. Stephens, he didn’t do it. On purpose, I mean. Really. I saw it.” The voice one row down, one seat over from a red-faced Connie Howard suspended time because it came from Deanna Collings. The Hot Girl. Head cheerleader, president of everything, queen of whatever was left over.

“If you have some insight for me, Miss Collings,” Stephens relaxed his grip on the seat and Janice, dropped his head momentarily, muttered to himself before raising it. “I’m all ears.”

“Well, first,” Deanna shifted to face them, ankle on knee, arm over the back of her seat, “Janice asked Jax if he had a pencil she could borrow. He said ‘No, but Connie always has some.’ When he said that he pointed at Connie with the eraser end of his pencil, like this,” The Hot Girl turned her hand and demonstrated Jackson’s boob poke, “and poked her, here.” She pointed to the side of her left breast. “He wasn’t even looking at her when he did it. It was an accident. Really.”

Stephens scratched his chin that always seemed about a day away from his last shave, and waited.

“Mr. Stephens, my mom would kill me for poking Connie in the boob. And I’d never do that on purpose.”

“That she would.” Stephens held his laugh, checked off all of them with his eyes. “Can we all agree with Miss Collings that this little, um, ‘episode’ was an accident?”

Deanna flashed the Miss Popularity smile that turned just about everybody but Jackson to mush. “Connie, you know it was an accident. I’d let him go if it was me.”

Connie frowned, but let it go. “Okay. It’s alright. I’m sorry I hit you, Jax. But you’re still a butt hole. Janice?” She leaned across Jackson and handed Janice a sharp, new pencil, smashing her recently indignant left boob right into his chest.

Mr. Stephens walked back down to his projector shaking his head, crepe soled wingtips squishing all the way. Jackson. Poor kid. Completely surrounded by thirteen- and fourteen-year-old estrogen on that side of the auditorium and nowhere to hide.

Jackson leaned forward and reached long, careful to stay way out in front of his neighbor’s boobs and tapped the Hot Girl on the shoulder. She jumped, looked back at him.

“Deanna? Thanks, you know. Really.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiled a different smile that did turn him a little towards mush. He’d never seen her look anything like confused before, either, but she sorta did.

Deanna waited in the hall outside the auditorium after science class, grabbed Jackson’s shirt sleeve when he walked by, an action that threw a big wrench into the Hot Girl’s entourage. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose and it’s just not fair how you get in trouble all the time for nothing. I’m in your homeroom this year, sorta, so I had to, uh, you know… when you were getting it from Connie and Coach for nothing.”

“Yeah, um, thanks, you know? But girls on one side, us on the other. Kinda the same homeroom, but not really.” He was aware he’d need to not pee his pants if he talked to the Hot Girl for very long.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” She started to vanish into the crowd around her. “No, I won’t, it’s Wednesday!” She was walking backwards, almost shouting. “Where do you go with that big blue bag on Wednesdays?”

“Later.” There wasn’t time for the Tale of the Blue Bag. She was gone, swept away in a sea of popularity. This had to be the worst day of his life so far. Poking a friend in the boob by accident. Everybody in eighth grade watching him about to eat it with Stephens before the Hot Girl’s divine intervention. And then she talked to him. What did he say to her? Something stupid, probably. She sure was cute. More than cute. His mom had said, “Peaches and cream and big, bright eyes. You should be so lucky, Jax.”

Even though she’d made an effort to talk to him he still didn’t stand in line to hang with her before school or be part of the crowd when the two gym teachers decided to give them five minutes of co-ed home room. Why bother? She was pretty much sold on Matt, the guy with a few years too-late Beach Boy haircut, flip in the front, dyed Summer Blonde streaks and all. All the girls thought he was cute. Jackson thought he was a wuss, but he seemed to be by himself with that opinion. He and Mr. Stephens, anyway, Stephens saying to him one time during a Blue Bag handoff, “There’s a word for guys who put that shit in their hair, Jackson. Don’t be one of them.”

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NVDT #79 – Pepper Jack Cheese

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Prompt – Do you get story ideas that you know you’ll never write?

Constantly. Scenes, stories, this thing clicks with that visual, what were they talking about, who were they, what was going on and I’ll shell the scene into some characters and, well, they start talking and this happens. The following is a live jam, forgive the slop.

“Either a you morons seen my brother?”

Austin kept his eyes on the insulated half-gallon YETI tumbler he was filling with Coke. “Since when?”

“Since recent, retard.”

“You gonna drop that baby on us right here, Cheryl?”

“Austin, you know that’s not an approved refill cup.” Her eyes shifted to his carbon copy sidekick. “Donnie, you got somethin’ clever needs sayin’?”

“Nope.” He grinned, elbowed Austin’s shoulder. “I tell you what.”

Austin snort laughed, snapped the top on the YETI. “Harper ain’t been around much.” He tilted his cup at the very pregnant girl in a bright yellow and orange over-sized Love’s Travel Stop uniform shirt. “They give you that gold name tag so’s you can give workin’ men shit about their refill cups?”

“Well,” she kicked her hip up against the stainless drink counter she’d been leaning on flat handed, palmed her stomach. “He’s around enough to call me at 11:34 in the P M askin’ questions about cheese.”

“Prob’ly had the munchies, right Donnie? After a long afternoon?”

“I tell you what,” Donnie giggled, elbowed Austin again. Austin got a toothy smile and elbowed back.

“Just what is it with you two ‘tellin’ me what’ an gigglin’ like my twelve-year-old nieces?” She folded her arms, raised an eyebrow.

“Harper hadn’t been good for shit ‘least once a week, sometimes twice since he met ol’ I tell you what. Ain’t that right, Donnie?”

“I tell you what.” They both laughed.

“So tell me what,” Cheryl drummed her fingers on her crossed arms. “Or I confiscate both your illegal refills.”

“Damn, girl. You know what these things cost?”

“I do. And I know what they’re costin’ me in profit-per-square override for lettin’ y’all use ‘em.”

“Listen to you bein’ all Miz manager on us. It’s not like we’re thieves or nothin’.”

“Austin Babcock, it is exactly like you’re thieves or somethin’. I’m gonna count to three. One…”

“Tell her, Austin. Or I will. I love Harper like my bro, but this damn cup cost me a hunnerd bucks.”

“Two…”

“Harper’s got him a girl.”

“Or maybe a voodoo priestess,” Donnie said.

“Yeah, maybe. Whatever, he ends up pretty stupid after bein’ around her. He don’t answer the phone, he don’t show to go pour cement with us on whatever day it is. All he says is ‘I tell you what.’”

“She got a name?”

“I told you, I tell you what.”

“Two and a half…”

“Honest Cheryl, that’s all Harp’ll say about it. ‘I tell you what.’ Says it all different kinds of ways, too, don’t he?” Austin checked his sidekick for backup.

“He does.”

“So where’s he keepin’ her?”

“Marie over to the Microtel said she saw him slidin’ out the side door one afternoon. Since then, nobody sees him on the ‘I tell you what days.’”

“Marie knows. She’s got cameras over there.”

“Only when she remembers to turn ‘em on.”

“Now why would she forget to do that?”

“The casino hookers like that place. It’s clean and half the price of the Hilton. She keeps the cameras off mostly as a courtesy to her clientele.”

“Donnie?”

“He ain’t lyin’. Not that we know personal about the casino hookers or nothin’. But we asked her after the first time she’d seen Harp do the side door slide if she’d seen him again and she said ‘no.’”

“So my brother’s got himself all tangled up in a casino whore. Jesus.” She came off the counter, hands behind her back, stretched. “No wonder he’s callin’ me at all hours with stupid questions.”

“We didn’t say that…” Austin set his cup down, reached for Cheryl’s shoulders in case she tipped over.

“I’m pregnant, not crippled.” She glared, let it go, patted Austin’s shoulder. “Thanks for the thought. No whore? You sure?”

“Not Harper’s style. An how he is when he comes away from wherever she’s at? Ain’t none of us ever seen enough money to come away from a whore make you feel that way.”

“I will tell you what,” Donnie grinned, hit his YETI, left the elbow bump alone.

“Alright,” she twisted side to side, elbows out, “you two go on. He’ll tell me when he gets to it, I guess. But if you see him, tell him to take his fool food questions down to the IGA from now on. I need my sleep.”

“Don’t expect Harp to do much tradin’ down to the IGA these days. He’ll drive up halfway to the city just for bean dip to save off goin’ there.”

Cheryl stopped her waddle to the front counter, turned, furrowed her brows.

“Laney Carpenter.”

“Austin, puh-leeze. That was what, three, four years ago? Besides, Laney’s a married woman now.”

“Not so’s you could tell. Least not when Harper goes in there. He says it ain’t worth it, her married to that gun crazy long-haul trucker don’t ever wash his clothes or shower while he’s gone. Even heard he cuts off the top of a milk carton, so he has a place to shit so he don’t have to pull —”

“A pregnant woman can projectile vomit for no reason.”

“Right.” He hustled to put an aisle between himself and possible lost breakfast spray. “Anyways, Harp ain’t tradin’ at the IGA, not talkin’ cheese particular since the deli slicin’ is Laney’s little piece of IGA paradise.”

“You tell him what I said about callin’ all hours,” Cheryl barked from behind the register. “And for the record I don’t have the faintest how to tell if the green spots on pepper jack cheese are peppers or mold.” She stood on tiptoe, finger-tips on the counter, hollered “Unless they’re fuzzy!”

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NVDT Totally Random – And Then After I Tried To Cut My Thumb Off…

I have read a number of blogs where people complain of stasis, not getting anything done, couch potato syndrome, Covid Fatigue. I hear ya. Me too. But I decided to get off my ass, dust off my tools and shine my DIY Merit Badge for January ’21 if for no other reason than to prove 2020 was over. I can’t change career politicians, the price of gas, the stock market or bad behavior, but I can change what I complain about the most…

Scene 1 – On one wall of my kitchen I had a dark broom closet / pantry that was beyond useless. The door opened into a wall, no light, no way to build slide outs because of the door frame. A fridge in the middle and another tall useless random cabinet. When I was finished I had twice the storage that matched my other cabinets and 61 inches of granite countertop.


Next came my cluster fuck of an office, music room. I couldn’t move, everything was an arm’s reach away, computer off axis with keyboard, cables a spaghetti infestation. What was I thinking, piling shit on I couldn’t get to or use? So I fixed it. Because I know better.

Next was the BIG DEAL – To make the original side of the kitchen match the new side. Let’s talk countertops to backsplash gotta go. From the old cabs to the microwave hole. (The microwave isn’t returning but going in with a single oven.) I even learned enough about cutting granite I made a window sill out a slab of leftover. Since the last picture I’ve installed a new vent hood and re-done the switches and receptacles, waiting on oversize wall plates. Also waiting on oven replacements at the end.

Had another wall going to waste, the one next to the door that leads to the garage. Never been room for a “breakfast nook” so it was dead air. Got out the speed load hex keys, hit up IKEA and then the hardware store for matching pulls. Instant furniture that almost looks like real furniture. After all this I have more than doubled the storage in the kitchen. In fact I have more storage than I have shit to put in it, which is a good thing.

Last but not least I got up one morning to go somewhere and the damn garage door flashed the “I’m Done” code, so I replaced the logic board. Which of course required a drive across Dallas because the usual suspects couldn’t get me one inside of a week. The only available one came in a faceplate that wasn’t a direct replacement. No biggie, board swaps are screwdriver work. But it got me to wondering. How much logic does a garage door need, anyway?

NVDT Totally Random – When Covid as PITA was a Metaphor

China Begins Using Anal Swabs To Test For Covid!

They claim it is faster and more accurate than the nasal route. Also less invasive, requiring only an inch or so of swab penetration instead of shoving the q-tip into your frontal lobe.

This whole thing is far grander in the humor bag than I can even speculate. God help the people in the drive through test sites. I think I’ll wait for the do-it-yourself home version.